One of the strongest underlying themes in Chasing Fae is the nature of the bond between siblings.
Grace spent her childhood being taught and guided by her older brother, Leo, who she has looked up to forever. He supported her through her pursuit of music and her studies, and he was always there to give her a sense of wonder in life even when their family’s financial situation wasn’t the best. When Leo became a mercenary and began to travel more often, he made sure to write to her every week and when he returned, to bring back something for his little sister. They were inseparable and each other’s best friends all the way up to the end.
I drew a lot of inspiration for this story from the relationship I have with both my little sister and a old friend of mine. My sister and I have been inseparable since she was born. She’s such a little light (or a sprite!). Energetic, passionate, and highly imaginative, my sister inspired the connection that Grace and Leo feel between each other. Whenever I come home, she and I spend as much time together as we can. I like to think that she looks up to me somewhat, but I know for certain that I look to her creative ideas to help fill in the gaps in my own ideas, particularly worldbuilding (She builds many, many worlds of her own for her stories, plays, and just for herself).
Now, I mention this old friend of mine. What he contributes to the course of this novel has been a little more interesting in terms of direct influence. This friend of mine has acted as an older brother to me, for the most part, over an extended period of turmoil in both of our lives. I always felt like he was looking out for me and trying to support me the best he could. He’s not perfect although I know he would have me try to believe so. We’ve had a lot of breaks and re-grouping periods over the course of the last few years. But at the end of the day, the benefit that I have received from our sibling-esque relationship over time outweighs the faults.
It was during one of our break periods that I started formulating the idea of this novel. I was convinced that I was never going to see this man again; things had been going downhill for a while. As angry and hurt as I was, I wanted to remember the good things, the good times that we had shared. So I created this character, Leo, who had all of these good qualities that my friend shared, like protectiveness and drive. From my sister, I borrowed a heavy dose of silly energy and playfulness, and the story was born.
This book started as a way for me to heal, and as things evolved, the story became something even more, something I’m proud to put out into the world.
Today, I’d like to share a short story also relating to sibling relationships that received an honorable mention in Scholastic Writing Awards two years ago. I hope you all enjoy.
“I would run if I were you,” a hoarse, rough voice hisses in my ear. Fangs scrape the side of my cheek as I thrash to get free from the ropes tethering me between two trees. “Now.” With the slice of sharp claws, I fall, and with a harsh kick to my side, I was running deeper into the forest, the darkness pressing in around me. I only vaguely perceive the chaos.
Everything is burning.
Behind me, a swarm of wolves flies over the hill and sprints towards me. I scream and hurriedly change directions in a last-ditch attempt to avoid them. Suddenly, I find myself in an even more horrific section of the woods, the bodies of my past dangling from tree branches. Ellie swaying slowly in a hangman’s noose as her body swung ten years ago from her favorite backyard tree. My parents lying prone on the forest floor from two gunshot wounds to the chest. My heart breaks and I stop in horror as I see my older brother right in the center, a jagged dark red line sliced across his neck. His dead eyes open and stare at me in what I could only describe as a haunting disappointment.
Their voices whisper. “Your fault, all your fault, run Emily, run, run, run”.
Then I am at the edge of a steep cliff with nowhere to turn. The pack of wolves catch up to me, snarling and snapping at my heels. I whimper. Then I am underneath them, being trampled and sliced open and bitten. I feel every claw sink into my skin, every fang take a piece of me with it, and every individual body crush each individual bone. I shriek, though I don’t know where I found the strength. Then, immobile and blind, my body is shoved off of the cliff. When I slam into the hard rock, the sharp points move through my skull and through my chest, and there is pure agony…
“Lil sis.” A voice breaks through my consciousness. “Lil sis, wake up. Wake up Em, it’s me.” Two strong hands pull me off of my pillow and into a hard chest. Even more frightened at the foreign presence in my apartment, I thrash incessantly and scream. “Emily!” the voice cried again. “It’s Liam, angel, wake up.” My eyes fly open.
“NO! No my brother is dead! Liam is dead, and it’s my fault!” I sob and struggle against the body restraining me. A hand forcibly presses my head into a solid shoulder. I buck backwards, attempting to reach the switchblade on my bedside table. The stranger’s hand caught me yet again, this time gripping my wrist with just enough force to keep me from my only defense.
“Angel, it’s me, please, come back to me.”
I collapse in sobs into the figure’s chest. “He’s dead… I didn’t get to say goodbye.” I choke. “Half a world away.. He’s dead..”
The body surrounding me shifts to swallow mine in its embrace. It begins to rock me gently back and forth. “Shhh, shh shh shh, Em. Em breathe.”
My hazy mind recognizes the words. Liam used to whisper them in the early days after our parents’ death, when I would cry and cry until I couldn’t breathe anymore. The voice of my brother… How could I have not seen it?
“Li?” I whimper quietly.
“There you are,” My brother hugs me closer and continue to rock slowly. “Shh, just breathe, sis. ” I cry quietly into his shoulder.
“You’re home!” I whisper in awe.
“I’m here,” he mumbles back.
After a few more shaky sobbing breaths, I manage to look up at my brother’s face. His dark eyes shine with concern. “I’m sorry,” I choke out quietly. “I didn’t mean to fight…”
Liam cuts me off with a finger to my lips. “Shh. Don’t you dare apologize,” he says sternly as he hugs me a little tighter. “You did everything I taught you. I’m sorry I startled you. I just got in; I would have let you sleep, but you were screaming.”
I flush slightly. He chuckles and pulls back to look at me, a thumb running over my cheek. “Tell your brother what’s going on, sis.”
I untangle myself from his arms and lean back against my pillow. He studies me carefully and doesn’t move, waiting on me. That’s the curse that comes with stubborn brothers like Liam; they’re going to sit and wait with you until you’re willing to talk. Especially when you don’t want to. I shift uneasily at his stare and finally draw my knees up to my chest. “It was just a nightmare.” My eyes drift to the floor, the closet, anything but Liam.
I hear another soft chuckle. “I gathered that much, sis. What happened?”
“Wolves,” I reply.
I sense him nodding in recognition. “What else?”
“There was definitely more, Em. Tell me.”
I try to harden myself against his probing, but I am still too frightened to keep my walls up. “… You were dead,” I whisper.
“There’s more, isn’t there?” Liam prodded.
I chuckle bitterly and blink back tears, tipping my head back to stare at the low ceiling. “Your throat was cut open…” I choke again and curse inwardly for being so weak. “Still.. Still bleeding out. You.. You were hanging from an elm tree in.. In the woods.. You… God, you were so limp Li.”
Suddenly, I couldn’t breathe. Instead of fighting the oncoming panic attack, I let it wash over me like a wave. Unconsciously, I felt my breath quicken and my hands shake, but I had retreated so far into my own mind that there wasn’t any way I could stop it. “Mama… And Dad.. The gunshot wounds… Ellie..” I could barely speak. The memories were too strong, the pain too great. A blanket of heat pressed down on me, pushing me farther into the abyss, but I welcomed its familiarity with trembling arms. My chest tightened.
Two warm hands closed around mine quickly and squeezed firmly. “Emily, I’m right here. I’m alive. Come on, breathe sis. It’s alright.” Through my haze, I detected a hint of something in his voice, something foreign. Not quite exasperation; he could never be that irritated with me. But… Disappointment?
“I’m sorry,” I apologized yet again in a soft whisper. “I’m so sorry…”
“No sis,” Liam pulled me out of my cramped position back into a hug. “Don’t talk like that. I’m not mad; I’m worried about you. Just relax, it’s okay…” He begins humming a vaguely familiar tune quietly, tucking my head under his chin. I silently praise the genes that made me small enough to fit underneath my brother. I feel like a little child again curled up against his chest and while a voice in the back of my head tells me to sit up and stop crying, stop acting like this, the rest of me is too content where I am to move.
When he stops and runs his hand over my hair, I pull back slowly and grant him a tiny smile. “Was that… Mom’s old lullaby? The Sweetheart Tree?”
He sheepishly rubs a hand over his neck. “Yeah, I thought it might help.”
I chuckle and smile softly at his shyness. “Thank you.” I hug him tightly. “Really, thank you.”
“Anytime, sis.” He looks over me carefully. “Em…” He pauses, staring at the patchwork quilt over the bed.
“I think it’s time for you to go back to therapy.”
I am immediately on my feet, pacing the floor. “No. I told you, I’m fine, I don’t need to go.”
“Em, you’ve been having these nightmares ever since I left for Iraq two years ago. And don’t try lying, I know you have. Just cause I haven’t been here doesn’t mean I don’t have eyes on you.” His jaw tightens, a sure sign that there will be no argument. “I’m setting up an appointment with your old therapist for next week.”
“No! I’m not going back Liam!” I shout. “It is impossible to talk to her about anything! She doesn’t understand anything. She just wants to evaluate me and fit me into some neat little psychological box.”
He bursts out laughing. “A psychological box?” I glare at him.
“I’m not messed up, Liam,” I scowl. I turn my back to the window, looking down at the city streets below.
“Going to therapy doesn’t mean you’re messed up, Emily,” he replied. “You just need a little help. Don’t you want to be able to sleep at night again?”
I sigh in frustration. He’s right. “Fine… One appointment.”
“Every two weeks,” I counter.
“I’m surprised you agree.”
“Whatever it takes to get you back in there.”
“I should have asked for more.”
He chuckles. “Nice try. That was as far as I was going.”
“Fine.” I teasingly draw out the word and sit back down on my bed. Hit by a sudden wave of exhaustion, my eyes slide halfway close as I crash back down to the mattress. I reach down to tug the blanket back over me, but I’m beat to it by my brother. He pulls it over me with surprising care and tucks it around my shoulders. I flush in embarrassment. He just smiles and taps my nose with a finger. “Shove over, Em.”
I move over a foot or so, and Liam lays down beside me. “What are you doing?” I ask.
“Protecting you.” His hand slides over mine again and squeezes. I smile and close my eyes.
“Love you too, sis.”